Time saving tips

Time Saving Tips to Get You Organized

Springtime and extended daylight often inspire us to tackle the tasks on our to-do lists that have been looming for a while. But just when it already seems that there’s not enough hours in a day to get everything done, Mother Nature goes ahead and plays a little joke by springing forward the clock, taking with it one hour of our precious time.

And so in the spirit of springing forward this weekend, we’ve put together a list of tips to help you get everything done with greater efficiency–in order to give you more time to spend focus on the people you love!

  • Write it down: Whether you choose to jot notes to yourself, utilize a date planner or calendar, or a handy reminder app, save yourself time in the long run by finding a handy resource that best suits your existing habits to keep track of to-do lists, chores, schedules, and important dates all in one place
  • Solve your “Twilight Zone” moments: If you often ask yourself, “Where did the time go?” paying closer attention to time wasters might reveal where you’re getting off track so you can identify routine changes that will prevent these issues from reoccurring. If you spend ten minutes a day trying to decide what to wear, try preparing a wardrobe for the entire week each Sunday night. If you’re regularly searching for a misplaced party invitation or important letter, consider creating a mail center to keep track of important paper items.
  • Create a personal timesaving policy: Take a stand against wasting time by always finishing projects to completion and thinking about what you can do in advance to save you time for when you really need it (like going through your mail every single day to prevent pileup or cooking double batches of food and freezing extras).
  • Multitask: Multitasking doesn’t mean talking on your phone while driving (it’s dangerous!) but it can mean taking that brand new to-do list and deciding what tasks can be accomplished together with a minimal amount of stops or cross-town driving. Taking care of smaller trips during your commute or on your lunch hour can offer great relief as well, without becoming burdensome.
  • Take 15 minutes a day: Set a routine of spending 15 minutes picking up around the house to prevent things from getting messy. If 15 minutes is too much to ask, try cleaning up during commercials or tackling one surface, drawer or cupboard per day.
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate: Just because you’re the list holder doesn’t mean that it absolves other family members of any responsibility. Watch for opportunities for other family members to alleviate you of unnecessary trips to the store, or teach them how to do household chores.

What’s your best time-saving tip?

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How to Address an Envelope

Have you ever been stumped by how to address an envelope? Over the years the post office has made changes to their preferences, so it’s always a good thing to brush up on your mailing address knowledge to make sure your cards and letters are properly delivered.

How to Address an Envelope

Need more details? Read these tips for properly-addressed envelopes worthy of Emily Post’s stamp of approval, courtesy of our letter-loving etiquette experts.

[Read more…]

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Top 5 Black Friday Shopping Tips

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Get your credit cards at the ready! Here we go–another round of Black Friday mayhem is about to commence!

There’s just something about the magical phrase “70-percent off” that sends humans into a crazed state of frenzy, so if you’re one of the brave souls heading out (or camping out) into the wee hours today, here are some helpful Black Friday shopping tips for surviving the shopping day to end all shopping days.

  1. What to wear Leave the stilettos at home– this is no time for high fashion. You gotta’ wear your comfortable, all-day-traction trekkers to stay ahead of the black Friday race (or even–dare we say it?!) Crocs with socks!
  2. Sustenance: Munch early and often; the last thing you want is to become hungry, dehydrated and irritable and lose valuable shopping energy. Keep a water bottle and snacks in your purse, or deck yourself out with one of those hat helmets with straws for hands-free sippin.’
  3. Buddy System: Shop with a friend! A buddy can take your place in line in you have to go to the bathroom, OR you can wear an adult diaper so you can hold your place in line while not having to hold your bladder. No one will know, and who cares—you just scored 80% off; that’s worth secretly peeing in your pants for. (We kid! We kid!)
  4. Know your territory: You might THINK you know the store layout, but on a day as huge as this, big ticket items often get moved to the end of aisles or put up closer to the front, so make sure you keep your eyes moving as you make your mad dash thru the store or you just might miss out on the deal you slept all night in a parking lot for.
  5. Get Appy: The last thing you want is to lug your huge flat screen to the curb and have no idea where you parked your car. Use a GPS car-locator app so you’re not stumbling around a crowded parking lot. Or better yet—have your buddy meet you curbside for easy loading of all your goodies.

Most importantly—keep calm, be kind and carry on shopping!

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Top 5 Black Friday Shopping Tips

11282013_Black-Friday_BLG_AG

Get your credit cards at the ready! Here we go–another round of Black Friday mayhem is about to commence!

There’s just something about the magical phrase “70-percent off” that sends humans into a crazed state of frenzy, so if you’re one of the brave souls heading out (or camping out) into the wee hours today, here are some helpful Black Friday shopping tips for surviving the shopping day to end all shopping days.

  1. What to wear Leave the stilettos at home– this is no time for high fashion. You gotta’ wear your comfortable, all-day-traction trekkers to stay ahead of the black Friday race (or even–dare we say it?!) Crocs with socks!
  2. Sustenance: Munch early and often; the last thing you want is to become hungry, dehydrated and irritable and lose valuable shopping energy. Keep a water bottle and snacks in your purse, or deck yourself out with one of those hat helmets with straws for hands-free sippin.’
  3. Buddy System: Shop with a friend! A buddy can take your place in line in you have to go to the bathroom, OR you can wear an adult diaper so you can hold your place in line while not having to hold your bladder. No one will know, and who cares—you just scored 80% off; that’s worth secretly peeing in your pants for. (We kid! We kid!)
  4. Know your territory: You might THINK you know the store layout, but on a day as huge as this, big ticket items often get moved to the end of aisles or put up closer to the front, so make sure you keep your eyes moving as you make your mad dash thru the store or you just might miss out on the deal you slept all night in a parking lot for.
  5. Get Appy: The last thing you want is to lug your huge flat screen to the curb and have no idea where you parked your car. Use a GPS car-locator app so you’re not stumbling around a crowded parking lot. Or better yet—have your buddy meet you curbside for easy loading of all your goodies.

Most importantly—keep calm, be kind and carry on shopping!

 

What’s your best Black Friday shopping tip? Tell us in the comments or tweet us @amgreetings!

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Top 13 Tips for Surviving Friday the 13th

Top 13 Tips for Surviving Friday the 13th

If the very thought of Friday the 13th sends chills up your spine, you may have paraskevidekatriaphobics  (say that 3 times fast!)  An irrational fear of Friday the 13th influences millions of people in the U.S., causing U.S companies to lose an estimated $800 to $900 million in business due to workers who refuse to travel or go to work on Friday the13th!

Whether you’ve bravely hauled yourself to work or are huddled under the covers watching Dr. Phil today, we thought we’d help calm your nerves and offer you 13 tips on how to make it to Saturday…

  • Get out of bed on the right side (that is, not the left side). This side is guaranteed to make your day luckier according to some superstitions.
  • Wear red underpants!  Apparently this color will bring you more luck than other colors!
  • If you come upon a ladder, it’s probably best not to walk under it. (Let’s not push the luck-giving capabilities of our red underpants.)
  • It’s not a great day for exploring woods, caves, or cemeteries. We know the sudden urge to go spelunking can be strong, but try to resist for a day, okay?
  • Drop the mop!  Friday the 13th is a great excuse to not clean because apparently handling a broom is unlucky on this day.  So is changing the sheets, flipping the mattress, or doing the laundry. (Woohoo! You don’t need to tell us twice!)
  • Do not start a new job or business today, as it will be followed by collapse or bankruptcy.
  • If traveling today (though you really shouldn’t) stay away from the 13th floor, which will be easy because many large hotels don’t have a 13th floor—they skip right over it to 14!
  • Furthermore, if you MUST stop for gas in a creepy station full of creepy people, just turn around and go home–your trip is over.  If you hear a banjo, put the pedal to the metal and floor it!
  • Throw salt over your left shoulder (to blind the devil!). This is usually reserved to counteract the bad luck of spilling salt, but we’re thinking that we might do it throughout the day as a sort of insurance policy.
  • Black cat? Give it a pat! In some cultures, black cats are actually bringers of good luck and one crossing your path is a good omen.  So, don’t be afraid to cuddle Jinxy today.
  • Do NOT go digging around for your old OUIJA board and NEVER read a book of demon summoning aloud, even as a joke—it can only lead to further problems.
  • Try to focus on good thoughts and good outcomes. Research has actually shown that people who believe in bad luck tend to bring it on! (we’re still not cleaning, though. Or changing out of our red underpants.)
  • No rabbit’s foot? Grab an acorn! In Norse folklore, both the acorn and its bearer, the oak tree, bring good fortune. No harm in keeping one in your pocket all day.

Good luck out there, friends!

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Summer Series – Recipes

Summer Recipes from StayInspired365.com

It’s summertime and the cooking is easy!  With so many delicious foods in season, the only hard thing about serving up the perfect meal is narrowing down the choices.

Simple Summer Meals

Nobody wants to spend a warm day over a hot stove, which is why summer salads are excellent options for lunch and dinner—especially if you add chicken, steak or seafood.   If you’re packing a picnic, it’s fun to combine classic favorites with interesting updates such as a BLT dip and pinwheel sandwiches, along with low-maintenance desserts that stay fresh all day long.

Great Grilling Recipes

Although burgers and hotdogs tend to be the most common grill foods, it might be time for a new spin on some old favorites, like barbeque hot dogs and stuffed burgers.  Or, serve all the flavors of the season on one skewer with easy kabobs.  If you prefer steak or seafood but worry that your grilling skills might not make the cut, a mouth-watering marinade is your key to success.  And don’t forget to grill your side dishes, too! Grilled vegetables complement any summer meal perfectly…and keep all the cooking out of kitchen.

The Coolest Cocktails

While water is certainly the best way to stay hydrated in the sunshine, it’s so much more fun to cool off with a creative summer drink.  For many people, iced tea is the official taste of summertime, but there are also plenty of occasions to keep the cocktails  flowing.  Non-alcoholic treats such as Watermelon Lemonade or an Orange Creamsicle Smoothie are refreshing options for kids—and a fun way to keep everyone in the summertime spirit!

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Summer Series Kickoff

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With the sunshine season in full swing, today begins a series of summer-themed topics to help you enjoy these lazy, hazy days in the most wonderful ways.

First Stop:  Summer Vacation!

Whether you’re going on a short jaunt or a long trip, here are some tips to simplify the travel process and maximize the fun:

Packing

  • Keep a packing list and write things down immediately when you think of them.
  • Limit your luggage to what you can wheel or wear.
  • Pack coordinating clothing items that can be interchanged—and layered.
  • Don’t pack more than one dressy outfit; clothes that require ironing; or anything you haven’t worn before.
  • Do pack extra underwear.
  • Zip-lock bag it!  If something can leak, it probably will.  And an entire kid’s outfit can fit in one bag…and then be used for dirties.
  • Stuff socks inside shoes.
  • Don’t forget chargers.  And be sure to check each outlet at the end of every trip.
  • Always pack a first aid kit.
  • If you’re staying with someone, bring a small gift for your host.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

  • Keep what’s needed within reach.  In a car, this includes cleaning supplies and emergency items.  Baggies also come in handy to corral your necessities such as gum, tissues, iPod, and anti-bacterial wipes.
  • For any long trip, bring your own blanket and/or pillow.
  • Layer your outfit for changing temps.
  • Pack an activity bag for kids (and yourself) with new surprises and reliable favorites.
  • Always bring snacks!

Safety First

*Put your credit card on travel alert before you go.*

  • Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket or your purse on your shoulder.
  • Never leave your valuables in your vehicle.
  • Closely inspect all final bills—and don’t be afraid  to question extra charges.

Make it Memorable

  • Ask locals for suggestions on restaurants, directions and activities.
  • Keep a journal.  You’ll be amazed at how much you would’ve forgotten if you didn’t write it down.
  • Take tons pictures and videos, but don’t forget to enjoy the moment while you’re capturing it.
  • Spring for that silly souvenir!  It will surely inspire a smile in years to come.
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Top 10 Picnic Tips

Top 10 Picnic Tips from stayinspired365.com

It’s time to stock up the cooler, spread out the blanket and bask in the sunshine…because tomorrow is International Picnic Day!  And with the official start of summer occurring on June 21, a whole season of picnicking is about to begin.  So here are ten tips to get you perfectly prepared:

1.    Keep it simple. Stick to a menu of summertime favorites that you can serve all at the same time.  Guests can leisurely help themselves while you kick back and relax.

2.     Make things interesting. Even classics like fried chicken, watermelon and potato salad can be updated with a new recipe.  Or visit your local deli or gourmet market for a picnic made by pros.

3.     Cool it. Freeze bottles of water or juice to use as ice packs until they’re ready to drink.  Ice the cooler several hours beforehand to keep it colder longer, but be sure to keep some ice separate to put in drinks.

4.     Pack wisely. Use lidded plastic containers to keep things fresh and prevent spills.  Pack dressings separately to avoid soggy salads.  For condiments, many brands now offer convenient “picnic packs.”  But you still can’t beat individual fast food packets, so save your extras!

5.     Keep it light. Once you consolidate your supplies, make sure they’re simple to carry and not too heavy.  Some picnic spots are quite a hike. 

6.     Set the table or blanket. Bring extra plates or platters for serving, large spoons for salads, at least one sharp knife, and an opener for wine or bottles.  To keep things organized, put food and drinks in separate coolers.

7.     Be prepared. Sunscreen, bug spray, a waterproof picnic blanket, umbrellas and a first aid kit should protect you from most of the elements.

8.     Avoid these. Foods that don’t transport well (ice cream, puddings, frosted cakes) should stay off the menu.  And keep in mind that sweet and sticky tends to attract wasps and bees.

9.     Clean up. You can never have enough hand wipes—especially if you opt for barbeque.  And be sure to bring extra bags for leftover food and trash.

10.    Stay flexible. Even the best laid plans—and picnics—are weather dependent, but no one ever said you can’t picnic indoors.  If the skies turn stormy, move the meal inside, lay the blanket on the floor and stay in the summertime spirit!

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Tips for Graduation Party Season

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Summertime is in the air…along with graduation caps at high schools and colleges all over the country! It’s graduation season again, which means announcements in your mailbox, invitations on your calendar and graduation cards on your shopping list.

So once you find the perfect card for the proud grad, how can you put your worldly wisdom into just the right words? Sometimes starting with a great line from a great mind will help you come up with your own idea. Here are some examples of how to combine a few popular quotes with a personal message:

  • Graduation is proof that “if you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”  ~William Arthur Ward. This is just the beginning of the incredible things you can do. Congratulations!
  •  Congratulations on your graduation! From today forward, anything is possible. 
  •  “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” ~Les Brown 
  •  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” And you have what it takes to do wonderful things. Congratulations!
  •  The tassle is worth the hassel!  You did it!  Congrats.

 Now for the gift… 

While money is the most common (and welcome) gift for grads, there’s often some questions about the appropriate amount. Of course your financial situation is the biggest determining factor, and most people give more for college than high school, but if you still want a ballpark figure: $25 tends to be on the low end while $75-100 is generous for a close relative. Yet, any amount is fun to receive when presented in a creative way…

  • Roll the money into a scroll and tie it like a diploma.
  • Tape the bills together to be pulled out of a tissue box decorated in their school colors.
  • Visit the website of their future college and get a gift card from the campus bookstore. 
  • Personalize and send an ecard with a digital gift card to one of their fave places to shop.

Graduation season is an exciting time for students, but it’s important for all of us to remember that “in real life, every day you graduate.  Graduation is a process that goes on until the last day of your life. If you can grasp that, you’ll make a difference.” Arie Pencovici

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National Teacher Day

Special Thanks to Teachers from StayInspired365.com

There are few people more deserving of appreciation than the everyday heroes who influence our children’s daily lives and affect who they will become.  Since its origination in 1944, the purpose of National Teachers Day, now expanded to National Teachers Week, is to honor teachers for their contributions to children’s success—and simply thank them for caring.

Here are some thoughtful ways for you or your child to show teacher appreciation—without breaking the piggy bank:

  •  Store, Restaurant or Movie Gift Card
  • Flowers, Plants or Seeds – for their seeds of wisdom.
  • Symbolic Sweets – Lifesavers, Starbursts, Candy Kisses
  • A Lovely Poem
  • Handwritten Note – even if it’s in crayon!

And if you are a teacher reading this, we would like to offer our sincerest gratitude for the amazing work you do—all year long!

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How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

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New Year’s resolutions are made with the best of intentions, but as most of us know, that can-do attitude can falter early. Here are some helpful hints on how to stay focused when trying to keep these popular resolutions:

Spend More Quality Time with Family and Friends

Some simple ways to help you get a bit more “you” back into your relationships can include:

  • Be thoughtful – Remember special days like birthdays and anniversaries or just get better at “sayin’ hi” with an ecard, paper card or handwritten note. Try setting up a desktop calendar to help you remember these days and even preschedule your ecards up to a year in advance.
  • Tone trumps text – Yes, texting is easier and does serve its purpose, but hearing the tone of someone’s voice is always more personal. You may even want to set up a specific time and call it a “phone date”, so that you can talk and not be interrupted.
  • Make a date – Use an online reminder service to schedule a date with your friends once a month—a regular “girls night out” or “meet-up anywhere” strategy keeps bonds strong.

Lose Weight

Resolving to lose weight is an important, but difficult goal for many. Stay on track and motivated by incorporating these tips into your routine:

  • Set realistic goals – the key here is to start slow and make a plan.  You didn’t gain the unwanted weight in a day or a week, so don’t expect to lose it that quickly. Make a specific plan vs. just saying “I want to lose weight.” For example, you may want to lose 5 pounds by the end of January.
  • Say cheese – Take a photo of yourself in the beginning and then repeat every 4 weeks. That way it’s not all about the scale, but about how you actually look!
  • Keep a food journal – Writing down your eating habits allows you to see where there’s room for improvement and where you’re succeeding. It is your proof of effort.
  • Pantry overhaul – Post holidays is the perfect time to clean out the “junk food” hiding in your cupboards and fridge. Replace it with fresh veggies and fruits and ditch the soda for low-sugar fruit juices and water.

Get Fit

So, whether this resolution is in conjunction with losing weight or just about exercising more, here are a few more helpful hints:

  • Move! – Increasing your activity level will burn more calories and boost your energy. Consult your doctor or a trainer to determine the best routine for you.  A mix of stretching, cardio and strength training will deliver good results. And, remember if you can’t get to a gym, simple things like taking short walks or using the stairs more will help move your body towards your goal.
  • Set a goal – This is just like losing weight.  Don’t just say “I need to exercise more”, but set a goal like signing up to run a 5K race in the spring!
  •  Lean on your friends – If you have a buddy or neighbor with the same goals, use them as a support system. Having someone to exercise with will help keep you on track and honest in actually getting the physical work done.

It has been said that every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. What are your resolutions and how do you plan to accomplish them?

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Wrapping Up the Holiday in Style…

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Sometimes you don’t have to look farther than your own backyard to enjoy the wonders of the season. The Christmas tree displayed this year at American Greetings came from our own property. The spruce was blown over during Hurricane Sandy, and was brought inside and lovingly decorated by a talented group of AG folks and interns from Kent State University.

As for the gifts under the tree, just like icing on a cake, the wrapping is that final touch to a perfect gift. And it truly is another way to show just how much love and thought has gone into the gift. Here are some tips to jazz up that paper and wrap up your holiday gift giving in style:

 

Gift Wrap Ideas:

12182012_main_imageMany people like to color theme their gifts.  Select a few different coordinating papers and mix and match the ribbons to tie it all together for a bold statement.

Get creative with your accents. Who said a bow just has to be a bow? You can include coordinating plastic or glass ornaments, pine cones, or even glittered snowflakes that you find at your local craft or dollar store to add something unexpected to the gift.

12182012_giftsThere are so many ribbons out there to choose from—why stick to just one? Sometimes a beautifully-textured or fabric bow can turn ordinary paper into something extraordinary and classic.

Coordinate your greeting card with your gift wrap–and leave it outside the envelope to serve a dual purpose as the gift tag!

christmas gift tags

Photo by: Martha Stewart [recycled Christmas card crafts]

Recycle last year’s greeting cards and turn them into gift tags. We cite one of our favorite experts for this tip and she suggests gluing card designs to store-bought tags or cutting out the design and punching a hole for the ribbon.

christmas monogrammed gift tags

Photo by: Martha Stewart [recycled Christmas card crafts]

Creating monogrammed gift tags from last year’s greeting cards is a great way to get the kids involved. Trace an initial on the back of the card and let the kids cut out the letter and punch a hole for the ribbon or tape to the gift.

homemade gift wrap

Photo by: Lovely Indeed for The Sweetest Occasion

Use a brown paper bag to wrap the gift and use a marker to write words or a special message, or even paint a design. Try making bows out of the bag too!

newspaper christmas gift wrap

Photo by: Country Living [creative gift wrap ideas]

Some people like to use the comic section, and that’s great, but you can really spruce up newspaper giftwrap by using international papers and then finish with a coordinating bow. Save this idea for the world traveler on your list!

If that special person puts a song in your heart, why not wrap their gift in music? Sheet music to be exact! You can easily download it and print it out to wrap around your gift—and don’t forget the bow!

There really are so many creative ways to put the finishing touch on the perfect gift.  Do you have any ideas you would like to share? We’d love to hear from you.

Happy wrapping this week!

Source Credits:

http://www.marthastewart.com/276934/recycled-christmas-card-crafts#242820
http://www.marthastewart.com/276934/recycled-christmas-card-crafts#272401
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/19/diy-gift-wrap_n_1159209.html
http://www.marthastewart.com/274678/gift-wrapping-ideas/@center/307035/santas-workshop#198813

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Holiday Prep Tips

Christmas preparation

There is no shortage of exciting things going on as the holiday season gets into full swing.  From shopping and baking to planning for fun get-togethers, you have one exciting, yet full, calendar.  But with a little pre-planning, you can get ahead this holiday season.

 Try these tips to help you on your way:

  • Shopping lists:  Get a start on your shopping list by jotting down notes as you hear friends and family mention things that might make for a great gift.  Find that one thing they’ve been looking for forever or give them something you know they need just by being a little more observant.
  • Get a jump on your holiday card list:  Purchase your holiday cards early in order to get the best selection and to avoid holiday shipping delays.
  • Make a list and check it twice:  With your holiday cards in-hand, all you need to do is give your address book a quick update before signing, addressing, and popping them in the mail (or bundle them and wait until December 10th, if you want to send a little closer to the holidays.)
  • Smile for the camera:  The holiday season is the perfect time to take a family photo, and there’s no better way to share warm wishes than with those beautiful smiles.  Be sure to check out the wide selection of photo cardsonline.
  • Bake and freeze:  Lots of holiday cookie recipes can be made in advance and frozen so that you always have a tray of treats to take to a get-together.  Consider starting a cookie exchange with a group of friends to get the most variety out of your bulk-baking.
  • Master calendar:  Now’s a great time to create your master calendar for the holiday season.  Don’t forget to include all holiday parties (marking which ones you’ll need gifts for), gift shopping lists, and a plan for set up, cleaning, and cooking for all your get-togethers.
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Shopping the Sales

Now that Turkey Day is done, it’s time to focus on another reason to be thankful:  sales!  Today is Black Friday, the day of deals. The term was allegedly used in the early 1960s by the Philadelphia police to describe the day’s traffic chaos.  In the 1980s, the meaning changed to a day for retailers to get their sales “in the black,” or profitable.

Remember, this is a battle for bargains, so to ensure success (and survival!), make a plan.  Start with a list and know where you’re going.  Don’t leave home without your rewards cards, coupons, and bonus offers.  Big box stores offer great deals, but so do smaller retailers.  Smart shoppers aren’t afraid to divide and conquer.  Enlist the help of family and friends, and make a fun day of it.  Stay nourished and hydrated, too—the day can be loonggg!  Finally, try not to shop till you drop, or at least, wait until you get home to conk out.

If you’re not an adrenaline junkie and hate the crowds, you also have Cyber Monday. This day was given its name in 2005 by shop.org, and offers the awesome ability to shop in your PJs!  Plan ahead and sign up for your fave store’s newsletter and “Like” them on Facebook to get great coupon codes.  To maximize the deals and minimize the cost, be sure to factor in shipping—free is best!  Verify you’ll have your items in time for the holidays, and double check the return policy.  On Cyber Monday, the options are as wide as the web itself –you can easily order anything online, even personalized holiday cards.  Now that’s a great way to save time this season!

 Happy Savings Days to you!

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